CHAPTER ELEVEN: THE ESCAPE FROM THE SAFEHOUSE, THE MURDER OF THE LOCAL CONSTABLE AND THE BEGINNINGS OF A FAIR FOLK CONSPIRACY (PART ONE)
An Early Childhood by Paddy Flanagan is a mock, surreal autobiography by a fictional Irish literary figurehead, champion bodhrán player and broadcaster.
So there we were, trapped in the safehouse. It felt a bit like the GPO all over again, and I had sudden pangs in my stomach that I was undergoing something French-sounding that I couldn’t remember the name of; not being a French-speaker, I felt that I had had the same experience before, in a kind of postmodern feedback loop. Myself, John Fisherman-O’Reilly, Sean Tubridy-O’Reilly (related by marriage) and Tancred Moorphy M’Nally awaiting certain death with approximately forty-two British soldiers, all sixes and sevens, led by Colonel Sir Edward Tiptoft, having utterly surrounded the house.
We were all four of us in the front room, what in those days was known as the parlour, staring out the window at Colonel Sir Edward Tiptoft who stood fearlessly on the road outside the house, his men training their rifles at the windows and door. Now, what’s little known about many an Old English cum Norman cum Gaelic Irish house in Ireland is that there’s many a priesthole in it. Priestholes are little hideaways wherein priests used to hide from the Roundheads and various other types of anti-Popish elements during the second millennium.
I knew that the house in which we were now hiding had once been owned by the Fitzgeralds, a fine and noble Norman family who used to harbour priests from the law. And I had also, only a few years before, done a tour of the house with a tour guide named Fergus Fitzgerald, a member of the Fitzgerald clan, and he had shown me a route of hegira, a word taught to me by Tancred in those few minutes fraught with tension, as well as all of the priestholes wherein many a priest had been clandestinely concealed over the centuries.
“Right, men,” said I, snapped into action, as I pushed the coal scuttle five inches to the right and a panel slid open in the unlit firehearth. “Tancred, you hide in the fireplace.”
Tancred did as was ordered of him and I hurried into the kitchen, John Fisherman-O’Reilly and Sean Tubridy-O’Reilly (related by marriage) following me and I unplugged the German manufacturered high class and even higher purchase food mixer. Yes, I said manufacturered, that’s how we spoke in those days and I’m in a bit of a hurry. With that unplugging, a large hole in the sink replaced the plug hole in the sink.
“John, you hide in the sink,” I said, and John clambered into the sink as I ran to the staircase with Sean. I pulled open one of the stairs and Sean climbed into the staircase without it having to be even asked of him. I replaced the stair and ran back into the kitchen and plugged in the food mixer and the large hole in the sink was once again replaced by the plug hole and I ran into the parlour and moved the coal scuttle five inches to the left and the fire hearth closed again and then I ran into the cloak room and pulled at one of the hooks on the wall and disappeared into a cubby hole that appeared before my very eyes.
The British forces opened fire on the house in earnest and bullets whizzed through every crevice and crack, every window and door of the house except for the bullet-proof priestholes in which my men and myself were hiding. Finally, they stormed the house with Tiptoft at the head of the party, and searched every room from bottom to top for us. We listened in silence to the house being thrashed by the Brackentans and finally Tiptoft declared:
“They must have escaped. Rats! All right, men: Torch the gaff!”
Continued in Chapter 11 Part 2.